Canadian Forest Service Publications

Climate change mitigation in Canada’s forest sector: a spatially-explicit case study for two regions. 2018. Smyth, C.E., Smiley, B.P., Magnan, M., Birdsey, R., Dugan, A.J., Olguin, M., Mascorro, V.S., Kurz, W.A. Carbon Balance Manage 13:11.

Year: 2018

Issued by: Pacific Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39353

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1186/s13021-018-0099-z

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Background: We determine the potential of forests and the forest sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by changes in management practices and wood use for two regions within Canada’s managed forest from 2018 to 2050. Our modeling frameworks include the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector, a framework for harvested wood products that estimates emissions based on product half-life decay times, and an account of marginal emission substitution benefits from the changes in use of wood products and bioenergy. Using a spatially explicit forest inventory with 16 ha pixels, we examine mitigation scenarios relating to forest management and wood use: increased harvesting efficiency; residue management for bioenergy; reduced harvest; reduced slashburning, and more longer-lived wood products. The primary reason for the spatially explicit approach at this coarse resolution was to estimate transportation distances associated with delivering harvest residues for heat and/or electricity production for local communities. Results: Results demonstrated large differences among alternative scenarios, and from alternative assumptions about substitution benefits for fossil fuel-based energy and products which changed scenario rankings. Combining forest management activities with a wood-use scenario that generated more longer-lived products had the highest mitigation potential. Conclusions: The use of harvest residues to meet local energy demands in place of burning fossil fuels was found to be an effective scenario to reduce GHG emissions, along with scenarios that increased the utilization level for harvest, and increased the longevity of wood products. Substitution benefits from avoiding fossil fuels or emissions-intensive products were dependent on local circumstances for energy demand and fuel mix, and the assumed wood use for products. As projected future demand for biomass use in national GHG mitigation strategies could exceed sustainable biomass supply, analyses such as this can help identify biomass sources that achieve the greatest mitigation benefits.

Plain Language Summary

This research examined how forest management and wood use can mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the medium term (2018 to 2050) for two case study regions in Canada. It is part of a tri-national study which examined forest sector mitigation options for Canada, the US and Mexico. Canadian results were developed through computer modelling using the Carbon Budget Model of the Canadian Forest Sector (CBM-CFS3) and the Carbon Budget Modeling Framework for Harvested Wood Products (CBMF-HWP) and estimating substitution impacts for using wood products to displace fossil-based products and fossil fuels. The study assessed the mitigation benefits, relative to a baseline, of increasing harvest utilization rates, decreasing harvest levels, using harvest residues for bioenergy, increasing the usable life of wood products and stopping slashburning. Forest ecosystem GHG emissions were improved by using recently updated spatially-explicit forest inventories, projected spatially-explicit harvest and road networks. Estimates of transportation distances were considered in the mitigation strategy which collected harvest residues and transported these residues to nearby communities for bioenergy production. This research advances methodologies for assessing substitution benefits from using wood in place of fossil fuels.